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You must have heard of Gotu Kola. It is also called Brahmi or Jalbrahmi in Sanskrit and Hindi, and Mandookparni in Ayurveda.
It stands amongst the hundreds of medicinal and food plants across cultures. The Khasis of Meghalaya call it ‘Khliang Syiar’ or ‘Bat Pyllon’, or ‘Bat Moina’.
Gotu Kola’s botanical name is Centella asiatica, or the Asian pennywort, of the Apiaceae family and is related to carrot and parsley. A herbaceous perennial, it loves shades and thrives abundantly in temperate and tropical, moist or wetland areas in many parts of the world.
While it is not aromatic it has a refreshing herbal quality about it.
This herb is an invasive runner, connecting at intervals with stolons. It soon diffuses into a carpet of slender, striated stems, visible as toothed, kidney-shaped fleshy leaves rising up on slim stalks. Flowers are small and whitish pink. Fruits are dull-brown, reticulate and laterally flattened. It has rhizomes that grow vertically downwards.
Because of its excellent food and/or medicinal quality and potential, it is also planted in spring, in well-manured, well- irrigated and well-drained cropland.
Cultivated Gotu Kola gives its first harvest after 3 months of planting, up to 3 harvests in a year for 2 years, after which a fresh stock replaces the earlier one.
In Meghalaya, Gotu Kola, or Khliang Syiar, is used in traditional medicine to treat stomach-ache, diarrhoea, amoebic dysentery and acidity. Though leaves are the main parts utilised the whole plant, stems and roots included, are also taken.
Despite its seemingly wide-ranging medicinal properties, the user is cautioned to strictly stick to recommended doses when consuming Gotu Kola as medication. It has antifertility properties too and so pregnant women should not consume it. Lactating mothers should also avoid it as there is still scant information about its safety in such instances. Excessive use of Gotu Kola can lead to headaches, nausea, dizziness and excessive drowsiness.
There are ways and ways to cook and eat Gotu Kola. You can add it in lentils; or make a salad of it with some ginger, slices of garlic, and roasted peanuts tossed in with dressings of oil and soya bean paste. You can cook it by itself, sauté with seasonings, or stew into teas. Maybe you can pickle the dried leaves and stems and enjoy its goodness all year round.
The mild bitter taste of Gotu Kola reminds one of parsley and wheatgrass with notes of cucumber.
It has a bitter and sweet taste and is known to impart a cooling energy.
A member of the parsley family, it has no taste or smell. It thrives in and around water. It has small fan-shaped green leaves with white or light purple-to-pink flowers, and small oval fruit.
Meghalaya traditional healers have been using herbs for ages. Their knowledge of the use of herbs for their practice has been passed down through generations. Sadly, there are no records about the use of herbs by these herbalists. They continue the use of herbs only through their practice.
With no scientific evidence or study, herbalist have been using it over the years, and it has proved to have tremendous healing properties.
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Gotu Kola is traditionally used both as medicine and food in almost all Asian countries. Its nutrient value comes from its richness in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, iron selenium and zinc. It has Vitamins A, B and C, phytochemicals, flavonoids and antioxidants. It has anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antiseptic properties that greatly help in rheumatism and wound healing.
The primary constituents, the triterpenoids or saponins the plant produces as part of its self-defence mechanism, are responsible for the wide therapeutic and pharmacological properties of Centella.
The following list are the health benefits of Gotu Kola
There are many health issues related to nervous disorder, such as Parkinson’s disease that affects the central nervous system; Carpel tunnel syndrome, which causes numbness in the arms, paralysis, Bell’s palsy, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, to name a few. These illnesses are related to the nervous system and can cause health complications.
Gotu Kola has an antianxiety agent which helps in relieving stress, enhancing the mood and inducing sleep thereby calming the nervous system.
The molecular mechanism of Gotu Kola on neuroprotection remains to be elucidated.
Does it help in boosting your grey matter?
Gotu kola is also popular as brain food. It enhances or improves your memory.
When the aqueous extract of the whole plant is consumed, it enhances memory retention and learning and reduces the lipid peroxidation and growth of endogenous antioxidant enzymes in the brain.
Gotu kola extract has been used to treat Alzheimer’s, a cognitive disorder and memory impairment disease. The herb is long used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat mental and cognitive disorders.
Gotu kola also helps in stimulating your brain’s neural pathways by eliminating plaque and free radicals from the brain.
Gotu kola is known to support healthy veins and vessels throughout the circulatory system.
The most common problems due to degeneration or malfunction of blood circulation is varicose veins and haemorrhoids.
When the extract of Gotu kola leaves is consumed, triterpenes a molecule of Gotu Kola works on the veins, improving their tone and making them less susceptible to the degenerative processes that can lead to varicose veins and other problems.
Gotu kola is well known by the Khasi people in helping to control blood sugar levels. The herb is steeped overnight in hot water, and the water is extracted and consumed the following day.
Gotu Kola is a strong candidate for alleviating diabetic symptoms, and perhaps controlling the increase of diabetes mellitus, because of its various compounds and functions.
Stress is becoming a common factor in the present age with a hectic lifestyle, and daily pressure in different forms. Stress can lead to sleep deprivation, the result of which is anxiety.
Gotu Kola has immense therapeutic potential. The herb has a positive effect on anxiety issues. It calms the adrenal glands, which in turn lowers the release of stress hormone and increases dopamine and serotonin levels.
As kids, we are always falling and covered in bruises and wounds. What our elders would do is take a bunch of Gotu kola leaves, moisten the herb with saliva chew it for a while. With chewing it becomes dark green in colour. This is then taken out and applied on the wound with a bandage wrapped around it. The bandage is left for a day. Depending on the intensity of the wound, the dressing is changed.
Pharmacological experiments have proven that the increased antioxidant activity of Gotu kola indicates the wound healing properties of Gotu Kola extract.
Gotu kola provides the same healing property when consumed orally. When taken in its natural form or powdered form, the herb aid in stimulating blood flow to the cells and protects your immune system against infections, thus, speeding up the healing process in your body.
Because of the presence of anti-inflammatory properties of Gotu Kola, it helps in relieving from joint pain. The herb is used in treating arthritis.
Research had shown that when Gotu kola was administered orally it suppressed joint inflammation. The herb is also shown to reduce cartilage erosion and bone erosion.
Because of its numerous health benefit when consumed, Gotu kola has also been tried and tested and used externally to determine its benefits, and it has always proved to give a positive result.
Gotu Kola can also help you achieve the skin you desire. Applying Gotu kola paste on your skin reduce the appearance of wrinkles scars and other skin blemishes.
A study found that Gotu kola acted on the connective tissues of the vascular wall. In conditions of hypertensive microangiopathy and venous insufficiency, the herb improves microcirculatory parameters by lowering capillary filtration, making Gotu Kola a candidate for reducing the appearance of skin ageing.
Gotu Kola has been used for ages by traditional healer and Ayurveda practitioners to treat all kinds of ailments. The herb is blended with other plants to increase its effectiveness including the benefits of other herbs.
Try this simple recipe for Gotu Kola summer drink
Ingredients for one glass of Summer Drink:
2. Gotu Kola Sambol Recipe
Gotu kola sambol is a herby coconut salad popular in Sri Lanka